So before I start off I thought I'd give a little background as to why I want to know this. So my mother is knitting me a sweater and asked what kind of things should be on there. I thought it'd be funny if there was a Japanese sentence saying "something in Japanese". This way when people ask what the sweater says, I'd say "something in Japanese". Of course they'd think "Yes, but what does it say?" Maybe not original, but it makes me laugh non the less.

What have I tried

I know a little Japanese, but I'm not very good at it or anything. First of all I'm wondering if my word for "something", "なにか", is actually correct. I thought something along the lines of the following might work:

  1. なにかにほんごです; I think this would roughly translate to "something Japanese"?
  2. これはなにかにほんごです; I think this would be something like "This is something Japanese".

The problem with these sentences is that I'm not sure if they would indicate that it is something Japanese, or something in Japanese.


What is the correct translation for "something in Japanese". Preferably without kanji, because I don't know those (yet). If it's not too much of a hassle it would be interesting to see them non the less.

Sorry by the way, I know it's not supposed to be a translation site. But I thought it might still fit the format because I guess it's more about grammar?

Thanks in advance.

  • Are you looking for a phrase that will sound natural, correct, interesting, etc. even to native speakers?
    – user4032
    Feb 26, 2015 at 12:58
  • @l'électeur preferably so. I don't want to be too strict, but it would be nice to have. I guess the most important part is that it would say "something in Japanese". Doesn't matter if it's a little bit off.
    – Bono
    Feb 26, 2015 at 13:06
  • You should make it say "you're an idiot for asking"
    – ssb
    Feb 27, 2015 at 4:45

2 Answers 2


While it is "easy" to translate the phrase "something in Japanese" into Japanese, none of the literal translations would sound either natural or good enough to sew onto a sweater.

Those would be 「にほんごでのなにか」、「にほんごによるなにか」、「にほんごなにか」, etc.

These would look, on a sweater, more than just weird or nonsensical to Japanese-speakers, trust me, if not to the rest of the world.

Your own attempts, 「なにかにほんごです」 and 「これはなにかにほんごです」, which are sentence-like while being slightly ungrammatical, strangely look even better than my direct translations above (which are grammatical). I have thought about this and reached the conclusion that in Japanese, with an ambiguous word like 「なにか」, a sentence would sound better than a noun phrase which is the equivalent of "something in Japanese".

"The problem with these sentences is that I'm not sure if they would indicate that it is something Japanese, or something in Japanese."

No problem, the only thing 「にほんご」 can mean is the "Japanese language" -- nothing else. It is not like the English word "Japanese", which can refer to a few different things.

Here are some ideas if not solutions. If anything, all of these are at least grammatical and natural-sounding.

If you absolutely must use 「なにか」, you could say:

1.「なにかにほんごでかいてあります。」、「なにかにほんごでかかれています。」、「にほんごでなにかかいてあります。」 and 「にほんごでなにかかかれています。」, all of which mean "Something is written in Japanese."

  1. Place 「ここに」= "here" at the beginning of any of the four sentences above as an option.

If you do not have to use 「なにか」:

  1. 「これはにほんごです。」 = "This is (in) Japanese."

  2. 「これはにほんごのぶんです。」 = "This is a Japanese sentence."

  3. 「これがよめるひとはすごいです。」 = "You are awesome if you can read this." Literally, "A person who can read this is awesome."

I could go on if you were not a beginner...

  • Accepted as answer, since it's more clear than the other answer. Thanks, I'll make good use of it!
    – Bono
    Feb 27, 2015 at 12:23

Revised answer in light of comments and further thoughts

なにか does mean something, though you could substitute the more colloquial なんか to be more casual. The only thing I can think of as a literal translation is

にほんごでなにか or にほんごでなんか

This would translate to "something in Japanese" in a sentence like

にほんごで なにか (なんか) いってください (Say something in Japanese)

(One uses [language]で rather than [language]に for things like speaking in a certain language.)  

However なんか is often used as a negative exclamation, so the words にほんごでなんか by themselves could be interpreted in a negative way as in l'electeur's comment. In any case, the above translation is not really a stand-alone phrase, and the meaning may not be apparent without context. (Think of the phrase "a little German" in English--it's meaning is not clear without context--"I know a little German. He's right over there.") So it's not perfect, but I can't think of anything better for what you want.

Another possiblity is the following:

わからない。にほんごだ。(or わからない。にほんごです。if you want to be a little more formal)

This means "I don't know/understand. It's Japanese." These are complete sentences that a native could parse, though one might be confused as to what it means on a T-shirt. (Imagine seeing a T-shirt which says "I don't know. It's English.") This will work a bit differently as a joke though, in that the joke might not get revealed (compare: "What does that say?" "Something in Japanese." "But what does it mean?" "Something in Japanese" "What?!?" ... versus "What does that say?" "I don't know. It's in Japanese." "Oh.").

  • 1
    For what it's worth, 「にほんごでなんか」 can also mean "(I won't ~~) in a (lowly) language like Japanese!"
    – user4032
    Feb 26, 2015 at 15:19
  • @l'électeur Good point. I perhaps should've said the meaning of the words can change depending on context, but I thought this might be okay. I remember a children's book, しろくまだって, whose title isn't completely clear until you read the book.
    – Kimball
    Feb 26, 2015 at 15:34
  • Does the sentence still make sense if you put it like "にほんごでなんか", without the "いってください" part? Should I refer to the sweater specifically?
    – Bono
    Feb 26, 2015 at 16:45
  • @Bono It's not clear without context, but I wasn't sure how important that was to you. I updated the answer to explain a bit and thought of another option, which you may or may not like.
    – Kimball
    Feb 27, 2015 at 6:35
  • Thanks Kimball. Your answer explains it perfectly now :)
    – Bono
    Feb 27, 2015 at 11:40

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